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Ben George

  • Object:

    Biscuit tin

  • Place of origin:

    London (printed)
    Reading (made)

  • Date:

    1868 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Jones, Owen, born 1809 - died 1874 (designer)
    George, Benjamin (printer)
    Huntley & Boorne (maker)
    Huntley & Palmers (made for)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tinplate, transfer printed

  • Credit Line:

    Given by M. J. Franklin

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The British biscuit tin came about when the Licensed Grocer's Act of 1861 allowed groceries to be individually packaged and sold. Coinciding with the removal of the duty on paper for printed labels. It was only a short step to the idea of printing directly on to tinplate. The new process of offset lithography, patented in 1877 allowed multicoloured designs to be printed on to exotically shaped tins.

The most exotic designs were produced in the early years of the 20th century, just prior to the First World War. In the 1920s and 1930s, costs had risen substantially and the design of biscuit tins tended to be more conservative, with the exception of the tins targeted at the Christmas market and intended to appeal primarily to children. The designs, generally speaking are a barometer of popular interests.

The advent of the Second World War stopped all production of decorative tin ware and after it ended in 1945, the custom never really revived.

Physical description

Rectangular tin with transfer printed decoration designed by Owen Jones, incorporating floral decoration and a Royal Coat of Arms on the lid.

Place of Origin

London (printed)
Reading (made)


1868 (made)


Jones, Owen, born 1809 - died 1874 (designer)
George, Benjamin (printer)
Huntley & Boorne (maker)
Huntley & Palmers (made for)

Materials and Techniques

Tinplate, transfer printed

Marks and inscriptions

Marked on the base: Ben George Patentee, London


Height: 5 cm, Width: 21.8 cm, Depth: 8.7 cm

Historical context note

The first "printed" British biscuit tin was produced in 1868. In that year the unforgettably named Benjamin George George, a printer trading from Hatton Garden in the City of London from 1856 to1893, produced transfer decorated sheets of tinplate designed by the eminent Victorian designer, Owen Jones (1809-1874). Jones had been a leading designer with the Thomas de la Rue company for many years and the biscuit manufacturers Huntley and Palmers were regular clients of this noted printing firm. When in 1868 Huntley & Palmers were given permission to make it known that they were biscuit suppliers to Queen Victoria's Royal Household, Owen Jones designed a transfer incorporating the Royal Coat of Arms for Huntley & Palmers. Benjamin George George printed the design on to shhets of tinplate which were then sent to Huntley & Boorne, the Metal box maker's in Reading, and the made up the sheets into tin boxes for Huntley & Palmers.

Benjamin George George had acquired the idea of the transfer process after seeing the work of the Frenchman F.A. Appel at the 1862 London International Exhibition. Appel had even been awarded a medal for his "varnished metal sheets decorated with transfers." George, a prolific patentee in the 1860s, realised the potential of the process and he took out several British patents. The method of decoration was in effect very similar to that used to decorate porcel;ain and pottery since the mid-18th century. Transfers were first laid face down on to prepared sheets of tin. When dry, the backing was soaked off leaving the design fixed to the metal. Coatings of copal varnish were then applied and the sheets finally put in an oven to harden.

Descriptive line

Transfer printed tinplate, Benjamin George George, box manufactured by Huntley & Boorne for Huntley & Palmers, Reading, 1868.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Michael Franklin, British Biscuit Tins, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984, ISBN. 0905209621




Transfer printing

Subjects depicted

Coat of arms, royal; Flowers


Containers; Metalwork; Portraits; Children & Childhood; Eating; Food vessels & Tableware


Metalwork Collection

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